A beginner’s guide to sustainable graphic design

Kaitlyn Ellison

We’ve assembled a collection of resources in “green” and sustainable design to help you get started in making your design practice more environmentally friendly.

First things first… what do we mean by “green”?


It’s not the color — we’re talking about sustainability. It’s finding a balance between society, economy and the environment when as a designer, you’re constantly creating, drafting, printing and embracing new technologies.

How can you create your best work in a way that’s better for the environment?


Stay informed

There are dozens of studios and websites dedicated to keeping graphic designers in-the-know about how to continue making changes for a sustainable future. Keep up with them to keep your information fresh!

Green your design practice

A lot of freelancers work from home, so where is there a better place to start than greening up your home or workspace! Here are easy behaviors that can apply to anyone anywhere, and can provide the basis for your clean design practice.

Save energy and H2O

  • Use energy-efficient lightbulbs. You can figure out which is best for you here.
  • Turn off your electronic devices when you’re not using them! Better yet — unplug them when you don’t need to charge.
  • Use heating and cooling appliances as little as possible. Open a window or put on a sweater!
  • Save water turning off the faucet when you’re washing your hands, doing the dishes or using the sink for anything else.


  • Learn how to recycle properly!
  • Do you have any equipment laying around your house you no longer need? Try to find someone in your own family or community to donate it to.
  • If that fails, or if your device no longer functions, did you know electronic devices can be recycled? When you upgrade your equipment, look into how to properly dispose of the old items. Find places to recycle your equipment responsibly here.
  • Think about your workflow. How often are you printing out your design drafts — can you reduce that number? Are you using recycled paper when you print?

Working with clients

When working with a client, you’re likely the party who knows more about the design industry and what that client can do to keep their business green. Use that knowledge for good by helping the CH make sustainable choices.

Prepare yourself for the print discussion


Print isn’t the only thing you can green

  • Web designers — are you and your clients using Green web hosts? Learn more about them here.

Get creative and spread the word!

Don’t let this be a fleeting interest. Spread the word about green design to your fellow designers.


Get inspired and create a cool project to talk about sustainability! It’ll give you a chance to experiment with design subjects you may not have worked with before.


And support a sustainable company by joining one of their contests on 99designs — there are quite a few out there! There’s a ton of information out there, so it’s all about prioritizing and figuring out what you can do.

What’s the best sustainable graphic design you’ve seen lately?

The author

Kaitlyn Ellison
Kaitlyn Ellison

Kaitlyn is part of the Community Team at 99designs.com. She grew up in Boulder, CO and went to school at Northwestern University in Chicago. When she's not blogging, she spends her time having adventures and being generally creative. She's all about having new experiences as often as possible!


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